Sisulu followed protocol in being absent from the House

2018-03-09 18:18
Lindiwe Sisulu (File, Netwerk24)

Lindiwe Sisulu (File, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town – International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has set the record straight about the reasons for her absence at a scheduled question session in Parliament on Wednesday.

Sisulu said in a statement that she had followed protocol as she had informed Parliament ahead of the National Assembly sitting.

Sisulu and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba were not present in the National Assembly on Wednesday to answer questions directed to peace and security cluster ministers.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete on Thursday indicated that she had written to the leader of government business Deputy President David Mabuza to ensure ministers were present in Parliament during scheduled question sessions.

Sisulu's office on Thursday confirmed she had authorised her deputy, Luwellyn Landers, to act in her stead. According to Parliament's rules, ministers are allowed to be absent for House sittings, and deputies are allowed to answer questions in their stead.

"The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation has noted with concern misleading media reports that Hon Minister Sisulu, MP, did not offer an apology to Parliament for being unable to attend the oral question to the peace and security cluster session on Wednesday, March 7," the statement from Sisulu's office read.

"We would like to put on record that the minister submitted her letter of apology to the Speaker, that the letter was indeed acknowledged and on that basis of an apology the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Hon Luwellyn Landers, MP, was allowed to respond to questions on behalf of the minister."

Mbete 'shares concerns'

Mbete told the House on Thursday that she "shared the concerns" of MPs over ministers not appearing to answer questions when scheduled, if not accompanied by relevant apologies for absence.

"In light of the conflicting information of the availability of certain ministers and heightened tensions in the House, I ruled that three questions stand over.

"I have written to the leader of government business to appeal to him that ministers are able to carry out their obligations in the National Assembly."

The three questions to Gigaba included his controversial answers relating to the naturalisation of the Guptas, and will be first on the schedule during the next session involving those ministers.

On Wednesday, Mbete told the National Assembly during the session that she had only received a letter from Gigaba' office, during the sitting, and said she was not aware of it beforehand as per the rules. 

This after DA chief whip John Steenhuisen rose on a point of order to ask: "Where is Minister Gigaba hiding?"

'Not feeling well'

Fifteen minutes into an argument with opposition MPs that saw EFF MPs Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Floyd Shivambu ejected, Mbete announced that she had just received a letter during the sitting, purportedly from Gigaba.

"He is not feeling well," she said to groans from opposition MPs. He had rushed to the doctor and had not personally signed the letter but it was instead signed by his chief of staff.

Steenhuisen asked if the letter had been quickly written up, because Gigaba "was in a right mess".

"I have no power over the veracity of the letter (sic)," Mbete answered.

Gigaba was not present in the House for business on Thursday either.

*CORRECTION: A previous article did not have the reasons for Minister Sisulu's absence presented. The article in question has been updated to reflect she had followed protocol in requesting leave of absence from the House.

Read more on:    lindiwe sisulu  |  cape town  |  parliament

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